Thailand vs Cambodia: Which is the Best Destination for Your Adventure?

Both countries offer incredible adventures, but which is right for you?

thailand vs cambodia

Thailand vs Cambodia – it’s a tough decision! These are two very different countries, but they both deliver incredible experiences to travellers. Keep reading to discover which country is perfect for your next adventure.

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Thailand vs Cambodia? Dang, that’s a hard choice!

Together, Stephen and I have spent plenty of time adventuring in Cambodia and Thailand, exploring each country’s cities, beaches, jungles, and other natural wonders. I’ve also travelled solo in both countries.

Of course, our advice is to stay long enough to travel to Thailand and Cambodia. But, since real life is always getting in the way of travel (so unfair, right?!?), you might need to make the decision.

Each country offers a unique personality and incredible experiences. There is a big difference between Thailand and Cambodia — which should actually make your choice a little easier.

So, with that in mind, read on to discover…

Cambodia vs Thailand: Which is the Best Destination for Your Adventure?

Best Travel Experiences in Cambodia and Thailand

Must-See Highlights

In Thailand’s south, you’ll see some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and islands, with dramatic karst formations sinking into azure blue seas. In the north, there are incredible ancient temples, luxury yoga retreats, and adventures in the jungle.

Explore northern Thailand on this incredible tour

thailand vs cambodia

Did you know Cambodia has extraordinary beaches?

Did you know that Cambodia has incredible southern beaches and islands, too? The big difference is that, in Cambodia, you can easily find undeveloped, uncrowded and inexpensive beach paradises — which are much more difficult to find in Thailand.

In central Thailand, there are awe-inspiring ancient temples to be explored, while in northern Thailand, yoga retreats and adventures in the jungle await.

Cambodia’s most famous sight, Angkor Wat, is perfect if you’re a temple fanatic. And the country offers plenty of jungle trekking and wild adventures, too. If you like the wild side, don’t miss a visit to Chi Phat and the rest of the Cardamom Mountains region in Cambodia.

City Experiences

If you’re a city slicker at heart, or just love to feel the pulse of millions of people living out their stories side by side, then Bangkok will blow you away. There’s not another city in the world that can rival it!

While it’s an interesting city, Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s biggest city, just can’t rival the big city opulence of Bangkok. Phnom Penh is pretty rough around the edges, though it does offer lots of opportunity for foodies, plus a burgeoning craft beer scene.

Beaches

Thailand is world-renowned for its beaches; Cambodia’s beaches are its best-kept secret. If you just want to lie back on a sun-lounger all day, with a cocktail in one hand and a trashy paperback in the other, then opt for the beaches of southern Thailand.

Want a sailing adventure in Thailand? Here you go →

If you want to escape to a simple bamboo hut overlooking sparkling waters and empty stretches of sand – and you don’t really mind if there’s electricity or running water – then the beaches of southern Cambodia are perfect for you.

Wilderness and Trekking

Northern Thailand can deliver on the trekking front, but if you want to spend a lot of time in nature, Cambodia is the clear winner.

From the wild jungles of the northeast to the equally wild jungles of the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia offers non-stop outdoor adventures. As a bonus, much of Cambodia’s tourism is focussed on eco-adventures and socially responsible projects, so it’s easy to give back to the communities you visit.

thailand vs cambodia

Jungle in all its glory, near Koh Kong, Cambodia.

Wildlife

In Thailand, you can get close to elephants, tigers, and other wild animals – but that’s not a good thing! The country has a terrible record when it comes to animal cruelty. There are a few legitimate animal sanctuaries, but many who sell themselves as sanctuaries have been caught poaching, illegally breeding, or abusing wild animals.

In Cambodia, the big animal attractions are concentrated in the northeast, where elephants have long been a part of the culture. Skip the abused elephant rides at Angkor Wat and head to Mondulkiri’s Elephant Valley Project to spend the day tromping through the jungle following elephants.

If you’re going to visit a wildlife attraction in either country, please research carefully to ensure your money doesn’t contribute to animal cruelty.

Mindful Experiences

If yoga and mindfulness practice is going to be a big part of your trip, Thailand should be your choice. In the north, near Chiang Mai and Pai, and the south, near Phuket and Ko Samui, there are hundreds of yoga retreats and yoga classes from which to choose.

Plus, the largely Buddhist population makes a daily habit of mindfulness — and it’s a fascinating culture for any yogi to explore.

thailand vs cambodia

Thailand has so many incredible temples to explore!

You can also find yoga retreats in southern Cambodia and Siem Reap but the real mindfulness practice comes while you are exploring Cambodia. Travelling in Cambodia is a little harder than in Thailand, so your patience, sympathy, and empathy may be tested on a daily basis!

Travel Experiences – Thailand or Cambodia?

Travelling in Cambodia and Thailand are two very different experiences.

  • If you want big-city life, parties, and beautiful beaches, with modern conveniences available almost anywhere, then opt for Thailand.
  • If you’re looking for the opposite — undeveloped roads, wild nature, bamboo huts, and big adventure — then Cambodia should be your clear choice.

Transportation

Transportation in Cambodia

If you’re visiting the main tourist destinations in Cambodia, like Siem Reap, Kampot, and Kratie, then busses will be your primary mode of transportation. Most busses in Cambodia are in pretty bad shape and run terminally late – but they certainly make for an adventurous travel experience.

You’ll probably need to take a few mini-busses in Cambodia, which can be an adventure all on their own. Ever ridden in a van with two motorbikes, a few chickens, and a pile of rice bags? In Cambodia, you can!

There is a train system in Cambodia but it only runs every couple of days and, honestly, it’s probably not worth the bother.

Transportation in Thailand

In Thailand, the train service is much more developed. You can take a train from Bangkok to almost anywhere you want to go, including overnight trains to the north.

However, since the Thai rail lines radiate out from Bangkok, there are times when taking a bus will make more sense.

thailand vs cambodia

Sleeper cars on Thai trains are comfortable but not necessarily luxurious.

The tourist bus network is well developed, though Thai roads can be terrifying. According to World Nomads, they are among the most dangerous in the world – so be sure to book with a reliable bus company.

Cambodia vs Thailand – Transportation

Travelling in Thailand is undoubtedly a more comfortable affair than in Cambodia. But if you’re up for adventure and want to travel like the locals do, Cambodia is a better choice.

Food in Cambodia and Thailand

Food in Cambodia

While Thai food has a reputation that has spread around the world, Cambodian cuisine is a hidden gem – some of our favourite meals have been in Cambodia’s excellent restaurants. Make sure to visit one of the many excellent NGO-supported restaurants in Cambodia for a taste of some of the country’s best cuisine.

To get deep in Cambodia’s food culture, try this Cambodia Real Food Adventure

However, if you’re off the beaten track or exploring Cambodia’s street food, you’ll find generally lower-quality and less choice than in Thailand’s spectacular night markets.

Food in Thailand

If you’re an omnivore who likes to get out there and explore with your taste buds, Thailand will offer a more exciting and diverse food experience.

For vegans and vegetarians, it can be tough to find food in Thai night markets that you can eat. Our top tip is to search for the Pad Thai stall where you can ask for your noodles without animals!

thailand vs cambodia

Noodles are the best option if you’re vegan in Thailand.

Of course, in the touristy areas of Thailand, especially Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and the southern beach hotspots, you’ll find almost anything your tummy desires.

Thailand vs Cambodia – Food

Though we absolutely love some of the food in Cambodia, and think that Cambodian food is one of the most underrated cuisines in the world, Thai food tends to be more exciting, diverse, and of higher quality. If you just travel for the food, Thailand is the better choice.

Accommodation in Thailand and Cambodia

Budget accommodation in Cambodia and Thailand

Thailand has a huge array of budget accommodation, from $5 beds in highly-rated hostels, to a clean and comfortable private room for $10-15.

In Cambodia, the budget accommodation isn’t nearly as polished and there’s not as much choice. You can get a room in a homestay for $4 or a hostel bed in the $5, but chances are they won’t be as clean and comfortable as comparable places in Thailand.

Boutique and luxury accommodation in Vietnam and Thailand

If you’re looking for upscale accommodation in Cambodia, you don’t have to look far. You’ll get fantastic bang for your buck, too, with $50/night buying you a bed in a charming boutique hotel.

thailand vs cambodia

You can get excellent accommodation in Cambodia for very reasonable prices.

There are also a few luxury resorts where you can be treated like royalty for about the price of a room at the Best Western in Europe.

In Thailand, there are hordes of luxury and boutique hotels but you’ll usually pay more.

Cambodia vs Thailand – Accommodation

For a broader choice of accommodation at a higher level, Thailand has the edge when it comes to hotels and hostels.

However, for luxury on a budget, head to Cambodia where there are a few fabulous resorts with suites at reasonable prices.

Dangers and Annoyances

Bag snatchers and thieves

Though Cambodia and Thailand are both relatively safe places to travel, petty theft can be a problem in both countries. Bag snatchers on motorbikes run rampant through both Bangkok and Phnom Penh. Always be aware of your surroundings and don’t leave valuables dangling enticingly off your shoulder.

In Thailand, credit card and passport theft can also be a problem, so keep an eye on your important ID at all times.

Scams and sex

Both Thailand and Cambodia have booming sex industries and many people go there for sex tourism (yuck!). The industry revolves around human trafficking and child sex rings — so even if you think you’re getting a “willing girl” for the night, you’re funding the lowest scum that crawl this planet.

Plus, some of the biggest scams in both countries are perpetrated on men who get involved in the local sex industry. If you want to avoid major trauma (and want to be a half-way decent human being) avoid the sex industry in both countries.

Drugs drugs drug

In both Cambodia and Thailand, you should stay as far away from drugs as you can. Yes, even at a Thai full-moon party where everyone else is getting off their heads. The police love to crack down hard on tourists, too.

Even if you don’t get caught by the authorities, drugs in Thailand and Cambodia can be cut with poisonous substances — avoid becoming a tragic headline by avoiding drugs when you’re on holiday. And yes, that includes over-the-counter medication, too.

Tuk tuk tales

Tuk tuk drivers in Thailand and Cambodia can be pretty annoying. In Cambodia, they are notoriously persistent – the best way to deal with them is with a friendly smile and stopping for a chat. In other words, treat them like human beings and they will treat you like one.

thailand vs cambodia

Tuk tuks can be useful in Cambodia and annoying in Thailand.

In Bangkok, tuk tuk drivers are true rip-off artists. I just avoid them altogether by using many of Bangkok’s other methods of transportation. Tuk tuks aren’t a great way to get around the metropolis anyway.

I use the Grab App in Thailand and Pass App in Cambodia, so I can hail a tuk tuk or a motorbike at a pre-set, reasonable price.

Thailand vs Cambodia – Dangers & Annoyances

Being busier and more modern, with a more developed party culture, Thailand is fraught with more dangers and annoyances than Cambodia, which still has a “village” feel to it in many parts.

Though there are relatively few dangers in both countries, the more touristed parts of Cambodia can be less daunting, especially for newer travellers and women travelling alone.

Solo Travel in Cambodia and Thailand

Cambodia solo travel

I have travelled alone quite a lot in Cambodia, but I wouldn’t say it’s ideal for solo travel. Though safety has never been an issue for me, there are a few other ways in which solo travel in Cambodia is awkward.

For a start, lots of tours and activities have to be taken by tuk tuk or private car. If you’re in a group, you can share the cost, but alone, it gets pretty expensive!

I found that most of the adventurous things I wanted to were not available as group activities, so I had to find my own companions or not go on the tour.

For an adventurous solo experience without the hassle, try this Cambodia Hike, Bike & Kayak tour

Thailand solo travel

The only time I’ve travelled solo in Thailand was when I was being treated for, and subsequently recovering from, malaria. Not an ideal testing ground!

From all reports, solo travel in Thailand is safe and easy. With more tourists around, it’s easier to find a group to hang out with or people to share the costs of tours.

Cambodia or Thailand – Solo Travel

Especially for less experienced solo travellers, Thailand is the better option. There are more group activities and more travellers to connect with.

Solo travel in Cambodia is totally do-able (and possibly a little safer than Thailand) but it can be more expensive and you’ll need more resilience.

Thailand vs Cambodia – Which is Best for Your Adventure?

If you’re an adventurer at heart and are looking for an eye-opening soul-changing journey, then Cambodia wins. Because it is less developed and less flooded with tourists, you get to experience the culture more deeply.

trekking in cambodia

Solo travel can be rewarding in both countries, but is easier in Thailand.

If you’re looking for a comfortable adventure where you can ease into Asian culture, or you just need a break from your hectic life back home, then choose Thailand.

Recommended Tours

If you have limited time, you can often get a more meaningful travel experience by joining a tour.

Tours of Thailand

Tours of Cambodia

Start Planning Your Trip with Trover

You can use Trover to collect pictures of the places you want to see on your Thailand or Cambodia trip. It’s a great way to start planning your adventure.

Plan Your Cambodia Adventures

Cambodia Adventure – a photo list by Jane Mountain

Plan Your Thailand Adventures

Thailand Adventure – a photo list by Jane Mountain

You made it to the end of the post, so have you made your decision? Are you going to go to Cambodia or Thailand? Or will you make the time to visit both? It would mean a lot to us if you’d let us know in the comments below!

  Happy mindful adventures, Jane & Stephen

It’s easy to help us keep this blog going! Some of the links in this post are our personal affiliate links. If you book or buy something using one of the links in this post, we’ll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you. Of course, we would never recommend anything we didn’t 100% believe in! Huge thanks in advance! –S&J

Trying to decide between visiting Thailand or Cambodia? These are two very different countries, but they both deliver incredible experiences to travellers. Keep reading to find out which country should be top of your list for your next adventure. #thailand #cambodia #asia

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Hi, I’m Jane, founder and chief blogger on My Five Acres. I’ve lived in six countries and have camped, biked, trekked, kayaked, and explored in 50! At My Five Acres, our mission is to inspire you to live your most adventurous life and help you to travel more and more mindfully.

2 comments

  1. Comment by Heidi

    Heidi Reply October 17, 2018 at 7:29 am

    Thanks for the PassApp tip for Cambodia. I’m heading there at the end of the year with my family and I’m sure it will come in handy. Cheers!

    • Comment by Jane Mountain

      Jane Mountain October 17, 2018 at 9:03 am

      Absolutely! I loved it. Although do keep in mind that the PassApp tuk tuks tend to be really small, so I’m not entirely sure you can fit a whole family into one. You can also get Grab and Uber there too, I think!

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